Why you should do a pre-arrival weekend visit
Katie Watson is studying as an Erasmus+ student at Rennes University in Brittany, France, for her year abroad from Exeter University. She is also blogging about her adventures. Here she recommends a pre-arrival weekend in your year abroad destination to make you more confident through the first few weeks of your placement, and help you settle in properly.
- 1. It means not everything is completely new when you arrive for real
- 2. You have someone to help you through the initial panics
- 3. It helps you build good associations and memories
- 4. I was able to get to know a few people who I would see again in September
- 5. You can start to visualise your first few days before you get there
As soon as I found out that Rennes was to be my home for my year abroad, the first thing I wanted to do was go out and start exploring. This resulted in me dragging my Mum out with me for a weekend in July to go and have a look around, and to start to get to know my Frenchy future home.
The visit itself was pretty short, but we managed to pack a lot in to it (mostly due to my obsessive schedule-making habits: I would definitely recommend having a list of what you want to get done to help you maximise the time you have!).
My four main priorities were to visit the church I was planning to attend this year, explore the city centre, look round the campus, and go and see my flat. All these things really exceeded my expectations, and made the first few days in particular so much more manageable when I finally got there for real.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. It means not everything is completely new when you arrive for real
Just having looked around the city centre a little bit, and worked out stuff like how to use the metro, meant it wasn’t all totally unfamiliar and strange, and this helped me settle in much more quickly in the first couple of days. Having these small elements of familiarity amongst all the newness was so reassuring, and being able to show my Dad around in September and explain where different places were made me feel like less like a clueless foreigner, and more like a knowledgeable local.
2. You have someone to help you through the initial panics
When I freaked out at big things like the prospect of moving my whole life to another country, or little things like what shampoo I would use in France, my amazing Mum was there to pick me up and help me deal with those things, which saved me having to deal with all this on my own in September. Also, having someone who understands the importance of being able to get a decent cup of tea was brilliant, as she perfected a French tea-making method for me over the course of the weekend: an absolute essential for any tea-addicted Brit.
3. It helps you build good associations and memories
Going with my Mum meant that I immediately had someone who I know really well to explore with, and meant I started making good memories of Rennes before September even arrived. For example, we found an amazing crêperie in the city centre to have dinner, so I already had a favourite restaurant and a favourite crêpe flavour before my YA had even begun!
4. I was able to get to know a few people who I would see again in September
Again, this might be hard to do if you’re not sure what kind of things you might want to get involved with over your year, but if there is something you know you’ll want to do – for example, if you play a sport or want to join a dance class – then go to a taster session. By taking this chance to get to know people, you guarantee there will be at least a few friendly faces to greet you later on, and hopefully some locals who might be able to help you find your feet. I knew I was going to want to go to a church over my YA, and visiting it in advance and chatting to people there meant that when I went for the first time on my own some people we had met in July remembered me, which immediately made me feel more comfortable.
5. You can start to visualise your first few days before you get there
The reception building at my new university campusThe fact that I had already seen my apartment and university campus helped me to start imagining what my life might be like there, which again made the first few days much less intimidating. I know some people prefer to just turn up and deal with things as they come, but I’m a complete worrier, so this visit allowed me to start mentally preparing myself for September. It also forced me to stop denying that this was going to happen eventually, and face up to it before I touched down at Rennes airport, stopping me having a complete panic when we arrived. Or at least, it lessened the panic!
I know not all of you will necessarily have the option to visit your future home before your YA starts – especially if you are an assistant with the British Council – but if you do, I definitely think it’s worth thinking about. If you want to read a bit more about exactly what I got up to in my weekend visit, visit my blog post about it here. Good luck!